Marjorie Knoller and her husband
Robert Noel took in two dogs that the previous owner said were too vicious
to control. The San Francisco couple knew the 125- and 110-pound dogs
had been raised by an attack-dog breeding operation.
The couple also knew that residents in
the building were terrified of the dogs. Residents actually called the police
40 times to complain about the two animals. Ten people had violent
encounters with the dogs.
The two dogs, not wearing muzzles,
then attacked a neighbor, Diane Whipple, mauling her to death in the
corridor outside her apartment. "She was naked and bleeding to
death, trying to crawl into her apartment, when the police
arrived." The death scene was so gruesome that police who arrived
on the scene were later given trauma counseling.
The Criminal Charges
The couple have each been charged with
involuntary manslaughter. Knoller, who was walking the dogs at the
time of the attack, was also charged with second degree murder.
Some people think the charges are too
harsh. What?! If anything, the charges are too light. Knoller
only faces a maximum of 15 years, while the harshest punishment Noel faces
is a mere 4 years.
Involuntary manslaughter requires a
showing of reckless indifference to human life. The second-degree
murder charge requires
a showing of "implied malice," in other words did Knoll act in
"total disregard for human life."
I would certainly say so. In correspondence with the owner of the
dog-breeding operation, Noel seemed to delight in
the way the dogs, Bane and Hera, terrorized their neighbors.
like living time bombs.
"The legal issue is whether
jurors will say that the defendants were taking an extreme risk, kind of
like playing with hand grenades," said Loyola University law
professor Laurie Levenson.
Another good analogy I heard was that
the couple were, in effect, rolling hand grenades with loose, hair-trigger
pins down the street every day. It wasn't a question of
"if," but "when" a tragedy would occur.
Hopefully a conviction and a harsh
penalty here will discourage others from owning such killer animals, or even
breeding them. In fact, the breeding itself of fighting dogs should be
These animals are made vicious by
being horribly mistreated during their "training" period, so from
an animal rights perspective, an end to a market for such animals would
avoid much animal abuse.
There have been other
prosecutions for attacks by killer-dogs, but few have garnered such a level
of national publicity. Unfortunately, it often takes a well-publicized
tragedy to convince society to take appropriate preventative measures, and
hopefully that will be the case here, so Diane Whipple will not have died a
horrible death totally in vain.